Techniques
 
So now I know what to build but how do I achieve the effect I'm after? Back to the internet once more. Forums about scale-building provide incredible amounts of information on just about everything. But as in real life everybody has a different opinion and everyone knows best. So I read all the opinions and tried to form one of my own.
 
The fuselage is what it is, epoxy, so that's strong enough. The wings are styrofoam and that's a vulnerable material. So I will cover that with balsa and later cover that with glass-cloth and epoxy. That will make it hard and a perfect basis for whatever I want to put on.
 
And what to put on is actually the most important question. What kind of material do I use to get the effect I want. In R/C flying weight is an important issue. For me it is not, so I am not limited at all in my choice of materials. Let's run through the possibilities and remember I'm going for the natural aluminum look and I want all those lovely round head rivets, all tens of thousands of them.
 
The easiest would be paint. There  are various aluminum paints available, some of them very lifelike. Some need to be polished after applying, some need a clearcote to give it the proper look. After painting the rivets can be applied piece by piece by using a syringe for instance with glue or a special rivet material. Panel lines can be made by using tapes and primers.  
 
Then there is a material like Coverite. That is a self-adhesive film that can be put on using a hot iron. The heat makes the glue active and shrinks the material so it is applied evenly without folds. Again rivets have to be applied piece by piece and panel lines have to be drawn on. That effect only works from a distance, but certainly not close-up. The final appearance to me is a bit to plastic.
 
There is a product that is doing very well in the US. It's called Flitemetal. This is a material that looks like aluminum duct tape but apparently has the possibility to stretch about 15 %, making it possible to use it on concave and convex curves. After polishing or sanding it, it looks like aluminum. It is applied as panels and gives a very real look. I have considered using this material for a long time, but finally decided against it. I can imagine that people use it for a flying plane because of the weight but it looks to "new" for my taste. The surface on which it is applied has to be very smooth, even the tiniest pinhole or scratch is seen. I find it works very well on model jets. For old prop-liners I prefer something else.
One of the features of an old riveted plane is that the panels are not flat after 60 years of flying. Because of stressing, heat changes, little accidents, bumps etc. the plane doesn't look very straight anymore.
 
 C-47 cargo door
 
This effect can only be achieved, as far as I have found out, by using litho plate. In offset printing, aluminum plates are used. One side is used for printing, the other is bare aluminum. The material is about 10- 20 micron thick. I found 2 thicknesses in my local print shop. It is very easy to use.
 
I will recreate every panel that was originally on the DC-3, with every rivet-line in place. The stuff can be cut with a normal pair of scissors. The rivets are made by rolling a sowing wheel on the back of the panel. I use different wheels to make the different kind of rivet lines. Some had  the rivets placed right next to each other, other lines are spaced further apart. So I checked department stores, markets, and sowing shops until I had all the kinds I needed. I made a sample sheet so I can easily pick the wheel I need.
 
  
After the rivets are in place, it's time for the magic. This material is very tough and when glued onto the fuselage or wings without anything done to it, it looks like a new plane.
So I heat it up, close to melting point. Unfortunately aluminum doesn't warn you before it melts. Iron gets white hot first, alu just melts all of a sudden. The litho I use has a blueish coating on the printing side. When that turns brown and starts blistering the temperature is just below melting point. Another trick is supposed to be with soap. You rub soap on the backside and apply heat. When the soap turns black the heat is OK.
 
This process is called annealing. It makes the material "dead".  When done properly the litho is almost as malleable as lead of the same thickness.
You can tell by the sound of the litho if the heat was applied properly. Normally it makes a high sound when dropped on a table. When it is annealed you just hear a dull sound when dropped.
After this I "mistreat" the panel a little. I bend it back and forth and throw it around. Then I glue it on. I use a contact adhesive, Bison tix.
 
 
        
 
The door is a test I did to see how it worked. You can clearly see that the alu isn't completely flat and that it has small scratches and little dents that give it a lifelike appearance. Some of the rivet heads were made with the sowing wheel, like the straight line on the right hand picture and some were done by hand using a nail. This is the effect I'm looking for.
 
So let the building begin. But before covering the fuselage I have to do the interior.
 
 
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